TRAVERSE CITY, MI –’s Lexus luxury brand says it now is planning to offer nine hybrid nameplates worldwide in 2014, rather than the eight models it said were planned during last year’s New York auto show.
Paul Williamsen, national manager-strategic education support for Lexus International, makes the news with his announcement during the Designing for Technology session at the Management Briefing Seminars here.
Lexus already offers the hybrid ES, as well as hybrid versions of its IS, GS and LS sedans and RX cross/utility vehicle. The brand also sells the CT 200h dedicated hybrid.
Lexus offers a total of nine nameplates across its range, but it’s unlikely the GX and LX SUVs in their current form would receive hybrid variants, as such versions of competing models have not sold well.
is blaming poor sales for the phaseout of its Cadillac Escalade SUV hybrid after the ’13 model year. WardsAuto engine-installation data shows just 3% of all Escalades built for the ’12 model year were hybrids.
Lexus has discussed the possibility of moving the body-on-frame GX or LX to a unibody platform. A few auto makers are offering hybrid versions of larger CUVs, notably Infiniti with its JX hybrid. Audi is set to bring the Q7 plug-in hybrid next year.
Lexus’ still-to-be-named hybrids could be all-new models, such as a production version of the LF-LC concept from the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A Lexus official confirmed to WardsAuto in March the vehicle was bound for showrooms to satisfy consumer demand.
Other media reports have said the Lexus LF-CC concept is marked to become a production model, with a variation of the GS 300h hybrid’s powertrain.
Williamsen concedes that in today’s ultra-competitive global luxury market, “just having the technology and product content may not be enough” to woo well-heeled consumers to Lexus.
With that in mind, the brand is upping its push by trying to reach consumers on the “gallery floor” rather than the dealer showroom. Lexus soon will open an “Intersect by Lexus” gallery in a trendy area of Tokyo, with other galleries planned for London, New York and Dubai.
“It’s not a car dealer; it may or may not actually display cars,” Williamsen says of the cultural space.
Intersect by Lexus will offer handcrafted luxury goods by skilled Japanese tradesmen at the Tokyo gallery. But Williamsen says there is an underground parking area, dubbed “Akio’s garage” forPresident Akio Toyoda that likely will hold a Lexus vehicle or two.
Lexus also has a new magazine, “Beyond by Lexus” that is not devoted to automotive, but discusses culture and social issues, Williamsen says.
He also hints Lexus will be expanding its role within motorsports, citing the 2012 and 2013 entries of the IS-F in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb challenge as a good sign that racing will become a bigger part of Lexus’ future.
“In the premium luxury segment, there is a strong motivation among buyers to pay attention to performance,” Williamsen says, noting greater motorsports participation could be an important selling tool for distributors and dealers.